MacBook Air Review - Mid 2011

DSC03567  2011 07 29 at 16 29 14 The MacBook Air is now an interesting part of Apple's product lineup.  With the discontinuation of the White MacBook customers now have to choose between the MacBook Air and the MacBook Pro.  At the low end, the MacBook Air is $999 (though I don't recommend that model), and the MacBook Pro is $1250.  Bump up to the recommended model of the MacBook Air, and you have a $1200 11" notebook against a $1250 13 notebook.  Is the Air a better choice than the Pro? Read on and I'll give you my two cents.


DSC03553  2011 07 28 at 16 09 34

The MacBook Air is an absolutely beautiful little machine.  that's the one thing that Apple didn't change.  At first glance, the 2011 Air is exactly the same as the 2010 version.  A bit more examination shows two differences: the addition of a Thunderbolt port and a backlit keyboard.  Aside from that it is pretty much identical.  Is it perfect?  No.  The webcam (sorry, I refuse to call it a FaceTime camera) is not an HD cam like what is found in the MacBook Pro and iMac.  Perhaps the machine is just too thin to stick a HD sensor in, but it's still a little sad.  Also, while this is an 11.6" screen, the large-ish bezel around it could have easily accommodated a slightly bigger, maybe 12.1", screen with no effect on the size of the machine.  It may not sound like much, but it really is a big bezel.

DSC03551  2011 07 28 at 16 09 13

If you're looking for every connectivity option under the sun, stop right now because this machine is not for you.  On the 11" Air you will find power, 2 USB, Thunderbolt, and a headphone port.  that's it. No ethernet port at all.  There is a USB adapter for Ethernet, but then using that uses 50% of the USB ports on the machine.  I picked up an Ethernet adapter personally.  I won't need it often, maybe 2-3 times a year.  But for those 2-3 times, it will probably be a life saver.  Sure, the potential of port expansion through the Thunderbolt port exists, there is not a lot of options on this little guy.  There is an SDXC card slot on the 13" model, which is nice.  I'd like one on the 11", but there physically isn't room on the logic board for one, so I'll live.

Trackpad and Keyboard

DSC03568  2011 07 29 at 16 29 23

The trackpad is massive for a machine this size.  that's the one advantage of the large bezel.  It allows for a bigger palm rest and trackpad.  And with all of the multi-touch gestures now in Lion, you'll need every centimetre of it.  The trackpad itself is pretty standard for apple, but slightly smaller than found on the 13" and bigger models.

DSC03583  2011 07 29 at 16 34 21

The Keyboard is also fairly standard for apple, save for a few things.  The dashboard and expose function buttons have been replaced with controls for Launchpad and Mission Control.  The actual typing experience is about 90% of what I would expect from an Apple keyboard. Where I notice a difference is in the depth of each key press.  It is another necessary evil because of how thin the machine is, but the typing experience on the MacBook Pro is slightly better because of the longer travel distance on the keys.  That doesn't mean that I don't' enjoy the MacBook Air keyboard, in fact, it's a great keyboard for the size of machine.  But the keyboard on the Pro is slightly better, emphasis on slightly.  The speakers on the Air are a bit tinny. they get the job done, but if you want to do any serious music listening or movie watching, it is best to use headphones, which sound great.

DSC03554  2011 07 28 at 16 09 40

The last thing I will say about the hardware itself is that the machine is remarkably solid, especially for a machine of this size.  That is a result of Apple's unibody construction, where the machine is basically made of 2 pieces of aluminum and the screen.  I'm not going to try it, but it really does feel like I could drop this machine and it would still work perfectly.  there is a little flex in the screen, which is understandable considering how thin it is.  But that is not enough to worry me.  The rest of the machine simply does not bend, which is perfect.


Screen Shot 2011 08 01 at 9 15 09 PM

The MacBook Air, naturally, runs OS X Lion.  The experience is a little different than installing on an existing machine.  First off, Before you even get set up, it prompts you to connect to a wifi network. Then you are required to enter in an apple ID when you first boot the machine.  If you do not have one, you will have to create one.  This is the first sign of just how important the cloud is to Lion.

Past that, it actually kind of surprised me how many settings and preferences that were kept when I upgraded my MacBook Pro to Lion.  The out of the box Lion experience was vastly different than the upgrade.  Some of the multi-touch gestures were different (the Lion defaults), and even some of the interface elements were different.  I'm still going through all the settings trying to get things the way I want them, and I've found ways to fix several things that I mentioned bugged me in my review of Lion.  I plan to use this machine for a few more weeks then make another post about life with Lion.

While i'm still a bit tepid about the Mac App store, the fact that I was able to simply log in to it, and then re-download my purchased apps was really slick.  It even remembered which free apps I had downloaded, which made getting the machine up to speed, limited only by my internet connection.  I also used the iTunes home sharing feature to bring my music over form my main computer.  The last thing I did was grab all the files I wanted to keep out of the home folder from my MacBook Pro.  I actually did this using AirDrop, which was really slick, and amazingly simple.  I was able to just drag about 5 GB worth of files into the icon for my MacBook Air in the air drop GUI, on the Air I was prompted to accept the transfer, and it just stuck everything into the downloads folder, which I was then able to move to my home folder.  Apple really need to put AirDrop into iOS. I think it would be a pretty massive feature.



Now, I'm not going to run benchmarks and give you graphs and pie charts of how the MacBook Air performs.  Others have done that, and I don't need to.  The Air I purchased was the 11.6" version with the base 1.6 GHz Core i5 processor (which is the intel low power ULV chip), 4GB of RAM, and the upgrade to a 256GB Sold State Drive.  Every MacBook Air uses the i5's integrated graphics processor, the Intel HD 3000 graphics, which uses 384 MB of system RAM for video memory.

Now, this machine is the fastest machine I've ever used in day to day use.  This is largely because of the sold state drive, which the Air is my first experience in using one.  It goes from off to the log in screen in about 7 seconds, and after I put my password in, the desktop is loaded 3 seconds after that.  It sleeps instantly, and wakes up instantly.  Applications launch blazingly fast. I've been using the Air for about a week now, and it still amazes me how fast it is.

The processor on this machine is plenty fast as well.  Would i make it a main video editing machine? No.  But it can definitely handle itself as a video editing machine for mobile users.  my desktop runs a previous generation Core i7 920, which is still faster, but the Air is fast enough for all but the heaviest tasks I can throw at it.  It is simply not in the same universe from the ULV Core 2 Duo from the previous MacBook Air, and is significantly faster than the full speed Core 2 Duo in the 2009 MacBook Pro.

Battery life seems to be roughly what Apple claims for the 11" air, 5 hours.  I haven't run any extensive tests, but I can say that I can regularly get over 4 hours doing my normal activities (browsing, IM, Twitter client polling every few minutes, and some app use like Reeder), but not more than 5.  I wish the battery life was a bit longer, but again, on a machine this small, I will trade a bit of battery life for the size.

I didn't buy the Air to be a gaming machine, and I'm obviously not going to try running a lot of high end games, but that being said I loaded up Civilization V and it was playable at the native resolution; albeit on the low settings.  Most games that are a few years old seem to run fine (Star Wars: Empire at War was my main test case), and the Air runs Angry Birds and Plants vs. Zombies like a fiend.

My only real concern is that the Air runs a little warmer under idle conditions than I would like.  While my MacBook Pro idled at about 41-44 degrees, the MacBook Air idles about 10 degrees warmer than that, and regularly gets over 65 degrees under a moderate load.  Time will tell whether that will be an issue or not.


DSC03574  2011 07 29 at 16 30 47

So the main question still remains. Can the MacBook Air be a users only computer.  For me, the answer is still no.  The MacBook Air is a fantastic computer, but I am still too much of a power user.  My Air has a 256GB hard drive, and I have 5.5 TB in my desktop.  I game on my desktop in ways that simply aren't possible on the Air.

That being said, I can see the Air being a perfectly acceptable computer for most users.  I absolutely do not recommend the $999 version though.  a 64GB SSD and 2GB of RAM are frankly unacceptable in 2011.  I think that the $1,200 model with 4GB of RAM and 128GB SSD should be the minimum users should consider.  For other things, like the ethernet port or optical drive, a simple question needs to be asked: When was the last time you used them on your laptop.  For me, I hadn't used the optical drive in over a year, and the ethernet port only 2-3 times in that year, which can easily be fixed with the USB adapter.  A USB DVD drive can also be bought for the few times when an optical drive is needed.

If you can live without having an ethernet port or a DVD drive every day, and understand that the $1200 model is the minimum that should be considered, the MacBook Air can absolutely be someone's only computer. Especially the 13" model, which offers higher specs and a slightly larger screen.  Even for me, where the 11" Air is going to be my secondary/couch/travel computer, I could not be happier with it, and it comes as highly recommended as I can.

You can see more pictures of the MacBook Air, including size comparisons to the Mid-2009 13" MacBook Pro here

Windows 7 - Review

Microsoft’s new operating system, Windows 7, is officially out on October 22nd. I’ve been running Windows 7 since early this year when the beta launched, and moved up to the Release Candidate, and I have been running the final version since July. Windows 7 has been highly hyped, and has brought much praise in it’s pre-release test versions. So how good is Windows 7? Read on to find out. desktop

The Default desktop of Windows 7

Windows 7 is based very heavily on Windows Vista, so much that in some circles it has earned the moniker “Windows Vista Second Edition.” This is not a bad thing, as I discussed in my three part series on Vista. Upon booting up Windows 7 for the first time, you’ll see a very familiar feel. the Start menu is very similar to Windows Vista, Windows Explorer looks nearly identical, except for the revised side bar, which I will discuss later. Many of the UI dialog boxes are almost identical. If you are coming from Vista, you will feel right at home here. If you are coming from Windows XP, as many people will no doubt be doing, there is a much higher learning curve, but it is not terribly difficult, and very similar to the learning curve going from XP to Vista. Lets start breaking down Windows 7.

The Taskbar


The Taskbar of Windows 7

taskbar apps

The Taskbar with Paint and Wordpad running

The Taskbar is by far the biggest change in Windows 7 if you are coming from XP, and is one of the biggest changes if coming from Vista. the Windows Taskbar remained virtually identical from Windows 98 all the way to Windows Vista. The basic design we’re all familiar with was, from left to right, Start Menu, quick launch, program bars, and the notification area. Windows 7 marks the first change to this paradigm in nearly a decade. To put it simply, the new Taskbar takes the best elements of the Windows task bar, quick launch, and Apple’s OS X dock, and rolled it into one package. Gone are the traditional long application bars and quick launch. In their place, a hybrid system. Much like the dock in OS X, a large icon now represents an application. Applications can be “pinned” to the task bar, so an application will always be there, regardless as to whether it is running or not. This allows many more applications to be put into the Taskbar at any given time. Window management has also received a significant overhaul. Along with the single icon for desktops comes application grouping. Application grouping has existed in since Windows XP, but Windows 7 is the first time where it really feels natural to me. Mousing over the application icon will show a live preview of every running window, and clicking on that window will bring that window to the front. The live preview, using Aero, will even show a video playing in real time in Windows Media Player. Regardless as to whether you are coming from Vista or XP, there will be an adjustment period to the new Taskbar, but after several months of use, I find it hard going back to Vista, and especially XP. If you simply cannot adjust to the new style, you can change the task bar back to the same behavior found in Vista.

The Start Menu

start menu start menu search all programs

The Start menu will feel instantly familiar to both users of Windows XP and Vista, slightly more so for Vista users.

Jump Lists


Another feature new to Windows 7 are jump lists. Jump lists are a a feature present all through the start menu, and in the Taskbar. Unfortunately at the time of this writing, very few apps take advantage of the features. Jump lists allow for an app to have quick access to important things pertaining to the application. The three apps that I have used that take good advantage of Jump lists to this point are Internet Explorer, Windows Explorer, and Windows Live Messenger. Each app uses jump lists in a different, and functional way. In Internet Explorer, the jump list displays recent web pages, in Windows Explorer, recent folders are displayed. Windows Live Messenger arguably takes the best advantage of jump lists, allowing you to change your status, sign in/out, go to your email inbox(if you use hotmail), and start an IM conversation, right from within the jump list. Jump lists are a feature of Windows that will become more useful over time, as more applications are updated to support them, and take advantage of them. I am excited to see what will be done with jump lists, and the creative uses that will be found.



A view of Libraries in Windows 7

Libraries actually are not a new feature in Windows 7. Nearly the exact same functionality existed in Windows Vista, but for Windows 7 Microsoft really brought the technology to the forefront and called it Libraries.

A library looks like a folder on the computer, but it is actually not. What a library is is essentially an aggregation tool. It allows the user to bring multiple folders into one container. In Windows 7, a user starts out with 4 default libraries. Documents, Music, Pictures, and Video. These do not replace the actual folders of the same names where the content would be stored, but rather sits on top of, and in front of them. When I first heard of the concept of libraries I wasn’t sold. In fact, when I started using the Beta back in January, I didn’t even use them. But over time i came to see their usefulness, and now make use of libraries on a daily basis. My largest example of how I use libraries is with video. I have video files across 3 different hard drives in my computer, in many different folders. Using a library, I can aggregate all of those folders across all of the hard drives into a single location, instead of having to find which hard drive the file is on, then which folder, I can click on a single icon, and everything is in one spot. Libraries will probably be the most under appreciated feature in Windows 7, but will eventually become one of the most useful.

As a side note, the same functionality also exists in Windows Vista, but Windows 7 really brings it into the forefront. What a library is is essentially a saved search, set to look at a single or multiple locations. Windows Vista has this same functionality built right in, but it was never really publicized, nor was it clear in Vista how to use it. Going back to Vista, i find myself actually using saved searches and making them into pseudo libraries.


homegroup1 homegroup2

The Homegroup screen

To go right along with Libraries, Microsoft has introduced a feature called homegroups. Homegroups is the latest attempt to make home networking easy. And for the first time, Microsoft has truly succeeded in that. The concept is simple. A homegroup is set up on one computer in the network and sharing center, and a homegroup password is created. Then on the second(or third, or fourth) computer, again from the network sharing center, enter in the home group password, and that’s it. The computers are connected. sharing a file, folder, or an entire library, is as simple as right clicking on it, and choosing the share with menu, where you can share it with anyone, the homegroup, or nobody. The homegroup menu appears in the left pane of Windows Explorer(what most people know as My Computer), where all computers, folders, and files in the homegroup can be accessed. I must give real credit to Microsoft here. They have finally made networking as simple as it can possibly be. The only caveat is that to get this ease of use, every computer must be running Windows 7, otherwise the previous folder sharing methods will still apply.



the “ribbon" first seen in Office 2007 is making its way into more and more applications

When talking about the applications in Windows 7, I’m actually more driven to talk about what’s *not* included, because that is the biggest news. Microsoft has stripped out many of the core applications we used to find in Windows, and made them separate downloads. Gone are Windows Messenger, Windows Mail(itself the replacement to Outlook Express), Windows Photo Gallery, and Windows Movie Maker. There are 2 primary reasons for Microsoft choosing to remove these applications. The first is the courts. As many of you know, Microsoft has been under fire for years for bundling applications with it’s operating system, even though it is a trivial matter to use another application instead. By not including them, Microsoft essentially eliminates that argument. The second is that by pulling these apps out of Windows, it is much easier for Microsoft to take the apps, and develop them at a faster rate than if they were built into Windows. So now, instead of including them, they are part of the Windows Live Essentials suite, which can be downloaded from The applications included in this suite are Windows Live Messenger, which is the most popular IM solution in the world, Windows Live Mail for email, Windows Live Writer, an excellent blog composing tool, Windows Live Photo Gallery, which is in my opinion the best photo organizer available, and Windows Live Movie Maker. Also included are a tool bar for Internet Explorer, a Parental control module called Family Safety, and 3 minor components, an Outlook Connector, the Office Live add-in, and Silverlight, Microsoft’s Flash competitor. Windows Live Essentials are just that, essential. I know that there will be some people who will not need any of the applications on that list, but in reality, most people will use at least one of those applications. Windows Live essentials are also available for Windows XP and Windows Vista, with the exception of Windows Live Movie Maker, which is only for Vista and Windows 7, and will not run on XP.

The only remaining Windows staples left are Internet Explorer, Windows Media Center, Paint, and Wordpad.

Paint and Wordpad bring in the ribbon interface first seen in Office 2007. Some users will not like this, but for those that have used Office 2007 extensively, the Ribbon is a large improvement to the traditional toolbars and is a welcome addition to Wordpad and paint. When it comes to Paint, that’s about where the changes end, beyond that it’s essentially the same application we’ve seen since since Windows 3.1. It is very simple, but it’s meant to be simple.

Wordpad actually got some significant improvements. It definitely can’t/won’t replace Word, but for those who only do the most occasional of document creation, Wordpad is actually a usable solution now, and should not be ignored. The only drawback is that Microsoft curiously removed .doc support from Wordpad entirely. It supports the .docx files that were introduced in office 2007, but does not support the .doc format used in office from office 97 until Office 2003. I understand that Microsoft wants to push the .docx format to the spotlight, but not having .doc support is very short sighted, as most documents today are still written in .doc. Wordpad can also natively save, and open, the open document .odt files, if you so desire.

I don’t personally use Windows Media Center very much, but from what I can tell, it’s gotten some subtle, but welcome improvements from Windows Vista, and looks to be a very goot 10-foot interface for those who will use Windows 7 as the base for a Home Theater PC.

Internet Explorer 8 is included in Windows 7. Unlike Internet Explorer’s of the past, IE8 is quite usable, and not nearly as vulnerable as previous versions, most notably IE6 are. I have no issues recommending IE8 for general purpose use for most people, however I personally don't use it as my default browser.

User Account Control


User Account Control was another feature born in Windows Vista, and another feature that was generally hated. And while Microsoft’s first attempt in Vista was not perfect, User Account Control represents the single largest measure of defense in protecting your computer from viruses and other malware. This feature is actually something that Microsoft has played catch up on. Apple’s OS X has had this feature since the very first version came out in 2001, and the various other Linux and Unix operating systems are based around this model. I wont’ get too technical with it, but User Account Control allows the computer to run a user in a state that cannot damage the computer, and must ask for permission when taking an action that makes major changes to Windows, like installing a program or doing Windows updates. While some people get annoyed with this, in Windows 7 it really isn’t an issue once the computer is set up. Once all of your programs are installed and all of your settings configured, User Account Control is barely even seen. With my computer running Windows 7 now, I see a User Account Control prompt maybe twice a week.

There are people who like turning User Account Control off, and that is a very bad decision. Turning it off not only gets rid of the prompts, but removes all of the security features around it, essentially making Windows 7 no more secure and safe than Windows XP. User Account Control is an important feature that should be left on at all times.


When Windows Vista was released, compatibility issues were huge. I have discussed previously that while Microsoft shares some of the blame for that, application and hardware developers also share much of the blame for that. But, that was in 2006. In October 2009, the good majority of those issues are gone. Almost all software runs in Vista now, and if it runs in Vista, it will run on Windows 7. If it’s a piece of software that will not run in Vista, well in my humble opinion unless it’s custom software that is truly mission critical to you, it’s time to move on and replace that software.

32-bit vs 64-bit

No compatibility talk would be complete without discussing whether to use 32-bit or 64-bit Windows 7. Microsoft’s foray into 64-bit Windows on the consumer level dates back to Windows XP, where a 64-bit version of Professional still exists. In Windows Vista, a 64-bit version was also abvailable, but that suffered even more driver issues than it’s 32-bit sibling did at launch. Many hardware and software makers chose not to support the 64-bit platform in 2006. However, in late 2009, things are much different. To put it simply, 99% of all applications and hardware will work with Windows 7 64-bit. Unless you are running an odd-ball piece of software, or some custom written software, it will probably work. The same goes with hardware. Your 7 year old printer may not work in 64-bit windows, and any older hardware might not either. However, most recent, and all current hardware will. This is as much of a choice of the hardware vendors to not dedicate a team of workers to write new software for an old device as it is a marketing decision on their part, trying to get you to buy a new printer. The best bet is to simply do a quick Google search ahead of time to see if anything you have will not work

But wait, there’s more?

I’ve only touched on the most major of features with Windows 7. Microsoft literally went through windows with a fine tooth comb for Windows 7. Nearly every feature of the operating system has been tweaked or changed, and updated in some way. From usable, robust parental controls to improved networking to new versions of every included app, everything in Windows 7 has been cleaned up, and improved, if only slightly. I have been using Windows 7 for the better part of a year now and there are *still* some things in it that I'm finding.

Okay, but should I get it?


At the end of the day, that question is what it comes down to. I am not afraid to say that Windows 7 is the best version of Windows Microsoft has ever put out. Does that mean you should get it? Not necessarily. Most people will get Windows 7 when they buy a new computer, and for most people, that’s the way it should be. My general rule is that if you are someone who can put together your own computer, you’re capable of dealing with installing Windows 7 on your own. If you’re not, then it’s best to wait. I say this because while Windows 7 takes great strides in ease of install, and detecting all of your items, it still isn’t quite perfect, and you have to know how to handle yourself if something does not go right.

I really believe that everyone will be running windows 7 eventually, whether it be through an install, or by buying a new computer. It really is that good. I’m up to nearly 2300 words in this review, and there are several very good features that I haven’t even mentioned yet. In fact, I have read one review of Windows 7 that has 12 separate 1500 word parts. There is just that many new things to talk about. I will end by saying that Microsoft has delivered a massive success with Windows 7, and should be applauded for it. Any doubts with Vista have been completely erased now, and all that is left will be what will probably be the most successful version of Windows ever.

MacBook Pro review -13.3" June 2009 model

This is not the first review of the 13" MacBook Pro that has been published. It is probably not the best either. What it is is a review from someone who has made the decision to own an Apple computer for the first time, and run OS X on a regular basis for the first time. MacBook Pro

The MacBook Pro in all it's glory

That is not to say that I have never used OS X before. I took several classes in school where I used OS X, and I have a few friends who have Apple laptops. Before buying the MacBook Pro, I would call myself an average OS X user. I'm still not proficient like I am with windows, but I've had my MacBook Pro for just over 2 weeks, and I've been using windows every day for nearly 15 years, so I think that is to be expected.

the MacBook Pro 13.3" was purchased to replace my netbook, an original Acer Aspire One, with an 8GB Solid State Drive(SSD) and an 8.9" screen. There are a lot of things to like about the netbook form factor. The size alone makes it a wonderful device to easily carry around with you, and travel with. However, as is the case with many of the early netbooks, my Aspire One did not hold up as well as I would like. The SSD in the drive is notoriously slow, and that has caused running anything that needs to access the drive to just kill the performance of the machine. I originally wanted to purchase another netbook. However, after beginning to shop for a netbook the ones I was looking to purchase were in the $500-$600 range, and that would have been my second netbook purchase in about 14 months. Another primary reason to keep me away was that while the netbook form factor is great for traveling, the machines are really under powered. A netbook is fine for about 60% of the tasks I would do on it, but there have been several occasions over the past year that I have found myself wishing for my netbook to have more power, and more capability. This is not because it is not capable of handling every day tasks, but because I am a very heavy power user, and there are times when my netbook simply could not keep up.

I decided to expand my search for a notebook to a full size notebook computer, one in the 13" size range. In early June, Apple announced a new revision to their notebook line, the biggest change coming in their 13" notebooks. The all aluminum MacBook, known as the unibody MacBook, gained an SD card slot, Firewire, longer battery life, a backlit keyboard and joined the MacBook Pro line. All while dropping the price by a couple hundred dollars. After this announcement I began to take a hard look at the new 13" MacBook Pro, and after careful consideration, placed the oder for it.


I will go so far as to say this is the most beautiful computer I have ever used. the unibody enclosure means that the laptop is made only of 3 pieces of aluminum, and the glass screen. It feels solid, and seems quite durable durable. I'm not going to test to see if it can take a 4 foot fall onto a sidewalk, but when I carry it around I don't feel like I'm carrying something made of glass.


MacBook Pro Keyboard

The black keyboard is a nice contrast to the aluminum case

I have been a fan of MacBook keyboard style since it was first introduced in the white macbook in 2006. I actually use an apple keyboard with my windows desktop PC. The keyboard here is no different, and having the backlit keyboard is nice in when in the dark.


MacBook Pro Trackpad

The trackpad is massive

Anyone who has used a trackpad on a windows PC knows how difficult it can be. they are usually small, and difficult to navigate. The trackpad on the unibody MacBook is nothing short of brilliant. It is by far the largest trackpad I have ever seen on a laptop, the glass surface makes it very smooth to the finger, and the multi touch capabilities are a joy to use. It did take some getting used to having the entire trackpad function as one large button, but after about a week of use I adjusted well. The controls, once you learn them are quite intuitive. One finger to left click, two fingers to right click. 1 finger to move the mouse pointer, 2 fingers to scroll a document. In supported applications, you can pinch to zoom as with the display on the iPhone and iPod Touch, 3 finger swipes can also allow you to go back and forward in the Safari web browser. Usually on a windows laptop I carry a mouse with me, and if the computer is on a desk, I'm using a mouse. For the first time ever on a laptop, I have had no desire at all to use a mouse, and that's saying something.


MacBook Pro Ports

All of the connection ports live on the left site of the computer

All of the ports can be found on the left side of the MacBook pro. on the 13" you will find the MagSafe power, gigabit ethernet port, Firewire 800, mini DisplayPort, 2 USB ports, an SD card slot(for the first time ever on an Apple computer), and a line in/line out port. Note that there is no seperate microphone port here. If you want to use headphones and a microphone, you either have to use a USB set, or use the iPhone earbuds with a microphone. The mini DisplayPort, while actually being a standard, is not used on a lot of hardware yet, and requires an adapter to connect to almost every monitor. On the right side you will find the SuperDrive and the security lock slot. On the front is the IR port and the standby light.


MacBook Pro Screen

Glossy much?

The screen on the MacBook Pro is beautiful. The LED backlight makes for even backlighting, and a very bright screen. The colours are vibrant, the black levels are good, and everything I have thrown at it looks very nice so far. The screen has an ambient light sensor and will automatically adjust based on how bright the room is.

Where i have run into problems, is the high gloss of the screen. I am a fan of glossy screens. I think that in general glossy screens look better, and provide a better experience. However, the screen on the MacBook Pro borders on being *too* glossy. Since I am a fan of glossy screens, the fact that I am even mentioning that I think the screen borders on too glossy means that it could likely be a big issue for some.


One thing about all of the unibody MacBook Pro's now is that the battery is no longer user replaceable. Apple's claims are that by eliminating the need for a seperate compartment for the battery, they have been able to increase the size, and capacity of the battery, by about 20%. The battery is also a Lithium Polymer, which Apple claims will last for 1000 recharges, which is more than double the 400-500 reated recharge cycles of the standard lithium ion batteries found in most other notebooks. This has been a very controversial feature of the new MacBook Pro. Many frequent travelers have two batteries for their laptops, and with the MacBook Pro, you cannot have a second battery to change out on the go. Now, for some, this is a deal breaker, but for the vast majority of people, this will not be an issue.

Apple claims up to 7 hours of battery life on the 13" MacBook Pro, and astonishingly, it is not that far off. with brightness set to between 30 and 50%, doing basic internet and word processing, the MacBook Pro gets almost bang on 7 hours. Naturally, as more intensive applications are used, battery life goes down. But you can expect well over 3 hours of watching a DVD, and about 4.5-5 hours of watching a video file stored on the hard drive.

Other features

The model I bought has the base processor, a Core 2 Duo running at 2.66GHz. I had 4GB of ram installed at the factory, up from the standard 2GB. I found a better deal on a 320GB hard drive than what Apple had to offer, so the first thing when I got it was took the stock 160GB hard drive out and put in a 320GB. The rest of the features are stock. It comes with a nVidia GeForce 9400M graphics chipset, which will not blow anyone away, but will be able to handle most day to day tasks well, and allows for light gaming. Spore, which is the only game I own that I can install on OS X, runs adequately on this computer.

Other hardware features include the iSight camera, and microphone. I have also noticed that due to the one piece construction of the body, the edge at the front of the keyboard feels a little sharp, and I've definitely noticed it while typing this review.


Although this is my first Apple computer, I am by no means a rookie when it comes to OS X. I have used it many times in the past, and as I have stated I feel myself to be competent. After a couple of weeks of using OS X, I find myself very used to OS X. I will be updating the "My Stuff" section of this website with the common software I am using for OS X. Most of it has come from friend recommendations, and searching on Google when I need s specific kind of application. Overall, except for a few odd circumstances, transitioning from Windows applications to an equivalent in OS X has not been an issue.

One thing that I have done, however, is used virtualization technology which allows me to run Windows within OS X. There are a few applications for Windows which do not have an OS X equivalent, or are otherwise better for me to use on Windows. the product I use is VMWare Fusion. I run virtual, and legal, copes of Windows Vista, and Windows XP. I use Vista for the day to day tasks, and Windows XP is only installed to facilitate easier troubleshooting/helping for me. VMWare fusion allows me to run Windows applications, such as Microsoft's excellent OneNote note taking program, within OS X. This allows me to have the best of both worlds. I have OS X, but also the windows apps that I need. I will be posting a more in depth article about virtualization in a different article.


MacBook Pro Name Shot

After 2 weeks of use, I am very, very impressed with the 13" MacBook Pro. It is a solid, very capable machine. It has it's quirks, and to own an Apple machine you have to be willing to accept those. But overall I am very happy with this purchase. I personally do not believe there is a better notebook computer, PC or Mac, in the price range of the MacBook Pro. There are some things that will be deal breakers for some. The screen is the biggest one. If you do not like glossy screens, you will not like the screen on the MacBook Pro. Even if you're indifferent, it is still a cause for concern. I highly recommend that if you are considering buying this computer, that you go look at it in a store first, to see how glossy the screen is. The lack of a user replaceable battery will also be deal breaker for some, although that subset is a much smaller audience. Overall, the MacBook Pro June 2009 revision comes highly recommended, as long as you are comfortable with using, and learing, OS X.

You can find more pictures of the MacBook Pro, including the unboxing, on my flickr page here.